The U.S. judge in the Apple vs. Samsung court battle that’s being played out in the district court of Northern California has denied Apple’s request for a permanent injunction on Samsung devices, Reuters is reporting. This follows Cupertino’s $1.05 billion damages award against Samsung this summer when the jury in the case ruled that multiple Samsung smartphones infringed Apple patents.
According to Reuters, Judge Lucy Koh cited an October ruling by a federal appeals court which had reversed a ban against Samsung’s Galaxy Nexus as binding legal precedent, ruling that Apple had not presented enough evidence to support its contention that its patented features drove consumer demand for the iPhone. AppleInsider quotes from the Judge’s verdict: “Apple must have lost these sales because Samsung infringed Apple’s patents. Apple has simply not been able to make this showing.”
We’ve reached out to Apple for comment and will update this story with any response. Update: Apple has declined to comment. Samsung provided the following statement: “We are pleased that the judge today denied Apple’s move to limit consumer choice, and restrict fair competition in the marketplace.”
“The phones at issue in this case contain a broad range of features, only a small fraction of which are covered by Apple’s patents,” she wrote in another part of her judgement, quoted by Reuters. “Though Apple does have some interest in retaining certain features as exclusive to Apple it does not follow that entire products must be forever banned from the market because they incorporate, among their myriad features, a few narrow protected functions.”
The Foss Patents blog describes this verdict as potentially “unprecedented” in U.S. legal history, considering the jury agreed with Apple’s view that infringement had taken place in a large number of cases, including “willful infringement”
It may be unprecedented in the legal history of the United States for an injunction motion to be denied across the board despite such a large number of infringement findings (roughly half a dozen) by a jury and, especially, in light of the competitive situation between the two as well as the jury’s findings of willful infringement. If no injunction is ordered in such a case, it is hard to see how any patent holder could ever prevail on such a motion, and I doubt that this is what the appeals court will consider the right outcome. But the appeal will take a year or more, and in the meantime, this is a huge defensive success for Samsung’s lawyers.
The ruling means that at this point Apple’s billion-dollar damages award win against Samsung has “little more than symbolic value”, according to Foss Patents, which argues that winning a permanent injunction would have been a far more strategically powerful outcome for such a cash rich company
Even a billion-dollar damages award would be strategically far less useful to Apple than a permanent injunction would have been, or could still be if it is granted after the appeal. A damages award doesn’t give Apple major leverage against Samsung. At this point, the August jury verdict has little more than symbolic value. For most companies, a billion dollars would be a key objective. But not between these two cash-rich giants, and not at a time when both are fighting for market share more than anything else. It doesn’t matter much that the products against which Apple was seeking this particular injunction have mostly become obsolete by now: there would have been different ways, through enforcement proceedings as well as (if necessary at all) new lawsuits, to extend the ruling to new products having the same infringing characteristics. Samsung would have had to modify all of its products in order to work around an injunction.
Since the jury’s damages award against Samsung, the Korean company has tried to call into question the impartiality of the jury foreman — and use an allegation of bias as grounds to call for a new trial — but, also yesterday, Judge Koh denied Samsung’s request to return to square one. Samsung did not provide TechCrunch with comment on this portion of the ruling.
Earlier this month Judge Koh called for global peace between the two companies as she reviewed the case verdict, saying: “If there is any way this court can facilitate some sort of resolution, I’d like to do that. I think it would be good for consumers and good for the industry.”
By denying Apple an injunction and Samsung a new trial Judge Koh has created a temporary stalemate between the two, de-fanging Apple’s big win without granting Samsung’s call to trigger a fresh trial.
Foss Patents concludes that the legal precedent set by the federal court in October is likely to mean patent holders will “increasingly” seek to litigate in jurisdictions such as Germany — “where injunctive relief is a given once infringement has been proven (except under certain circumstances specific to standard-essential patents)”.